School budget cuts are driving Franklin families out of the city

Image courtesy of the Concord Monitor

After three hours of public comment, the Franklin City Council voted to pass an $18.5 million school budget. The city faced an $813,000 budget shortfall, which has led to educator cuts in the schools.

Parents were concerned about the budget’s impact on academic programming, and many are considering moving out of the city or sending their children to private school.

From the Concord Monitor:

It was just weeks after the city voted to break its tax cap and give the district an extra $708,623, and then less than a week later voted to rescind its decision, finding $422,722 for the schools from fund balance and capital reserve money instead…

Many parents Wednesday night spoke about the difficult decision of whether to move out of the city or pull their children out of the ailing school district and into private school. Others said they didn’t have the money to make either of those changes.

Dana Andrews, a former school resource officer and teacher in Franklin, said the decision to send his two high school-age children to private school was difficult but necessary.

“I can’t wait any longer to send my kids to a school where they’ll be successful,” Andrews said. “I can’t wait for AP classes. I can’t watch teachers walk out of a revolving door where they’re not sure whether they’re going to have a job the next year.”

“Many of the people in this room are following suit with what I’ve done,” Andrews added. “It’s unfortunate, and it hurts me as a person who lives in this community to have that happen.”

Kristi Trudel said she moved to Franklin just over 10 years ago with her husband because they found a house they loved there. But now that Trudel has an 8-year-old daughter, she said she feels anxious about their future.

“I want to think in the future it won’t feel like we’re stuck here, but that’s kind of what it feels like right now,” Trudel said.

Mayor Tony Giunta, who has spoken adamantly about the importance of the tax cap, said it’s essential to attract businesses to want to move to the city, as well as support residents living on a fixed income.

Since New Hampshire school districts rely heavily on local property taxes to fund their schools, property-poor districts like Franklin have a harder time raising money. The district spends about $3,000 less per student, despite having a higher-than-average tax rate. The state provides a base of $3,636 per student, with additional funds for students who qualify for special education, free and reduced lunch, and other programs. The state has also cut stabilization aid, which intended to guard districts from fluctuations in enrollment and changes in the aid formula. Stabilization aid had accounted for about half of Franklin’s total state aid.

Franklin Superintendent Dan LeGallo said that one-eighth of the district’s staff has been laid off in the past three years due to the ongoing budget shortfall:

Franklin School District officials anticipate they will only re-fill four of the 13 positions cut this year due to the ongoing budget shortfall…

“We continue to be asked to do more with less,” LeGallo said. “It’s very difficult to meet the needs of the kids.”

The Franklin School District has struggled to meet costs while losing more than $1 million in adequacy and stabilization funding from the state in the last three years. In that time, staff cuts have become expected in the district.

Learn more about the New Hampshire’s school funding formula, its effect on student outcomes, and more:

Source: Franklin passes $18.5M school budget; parents talk of fleeing district | Concord Monitor